After many years of photographing in Denali National Park, I can tell you that it is not every day that a bull moose walks in front of Mt McKinley, on a clear day, when you are situated in an opportunity to photograph it. As a matter of fact, probably only a handful of times in my career. In late August I had an amazing opportunity, which was largely serendipitous, a little bit lucky, and a tiny bit of persistence. The bull moose had wandered into the shadowed alders to browse, while a group of us photographers waited around for it to make a possible reappearance.
Meanwhile, I wandered off to photograph Denali reflecting in some small tundra ponds in the area, as the morning light was fading and beginning to get bright. After meandering back from one pond to this one, the bull moose had moved out of the shadows and appeared to be going in the opposite direction. I waited by the pond in hopes that it changed its mind, which it did, and traversed right across the tundra in front of Denali. In retrospect, a photographer replays this event over and over, considering all the ways the scene could have been shot. I was still a bit in landscape mode, and I was preferring to get a shot of the moose contextually placed by the colorful tundra pond. But the shooting window is very narrow and you only have a few frames to compose. I picked off a couple that I like, but when comparing with my colleague’s photos, who was not as near to the water as I was, I liked his vantage point better. Oh well, its hard to complain about this kind of opportunity, and I’m pleased that these few pictures are sharp and clean. Thank you moose and mountain.
I used a polarizer to limit some of the reflection on the tundra vegetation. This worked due to the perpendicular angle of the sun to the scene. The filter robs over a stop of light, so I bumped up the ISO to 400, and used an f/stop of 9 to get some depth of field. An f/stop of 13 would have been nice, but while the mountain is not super sharp in the picture, it is pretty distinguishable. I shot in manual mode and maximized exposure for the shadows, knowing that the dark moose would need some fill light, and I wanted that capability without introducing too much noise.